Federal spending bill includes money for New Mexico border crossings

Columbus, New Mexico, to get $1 million for flood control; Santa Teresa eyes long sought-after funds for study to justify $170 million modernization

By:  Julian Resendiz

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The Senate’s $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill includes funds for improvements at two New Mexico international ports of entry, a lawmaker says.

The Columbus Port of Entry is slated to get $1 million for drainage work that includes the construction of berms to prevent flooding on both sides of the border; the Santa Teresa border crossing is getting $500,000 for a feasibility study deemed as a cornerstone for a future $170 million expansion and modernization project.

“We have been working hand-in-hand with communities in every corner of the state to ensure that more federal dollars find their way to New Mexico […] Everything from road, emergency services, waste and water infrastructure,” said U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, a member of the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

The House on Thursday approved the omnibus with bipartisan support, with the Senate following suit a few hours later.

Heinrich said another $2.25 million is earmarked for hangar expansion at the Santa Teresa-based Doña Ana County International Jetport. That should bring more business to the jetport and the industrial parks at Santa Teresa.

“There is a list of 60 individuals and organizations that want to lease hangars out there, so that’s going to help a lot,” said Jerry Pacheco, president and CEO of the Border Industrial Association. The jetport supports private and commercial aviation.

But the money for the border crossing feasibility redesign and expansion study, though only at half a million dollars, has the potential to bring major trade expansion at the Mexico-New Mexico border, Pacheco said.

“With that money we can get the study to make the case that we need a new port of entry. Then we can go on to the next steps, like design, to have a modernized port of entry.”

Pacheco said Santa Teresa has become the second-busiest commercial port of entry in Far West Texas and Southern New Mexico, surpassing El Paso’s Bridge of the Americas and trailing only the Ysleta-Zaragoza crossing.

“Columbus a few years ago got $84 million for a new port of entry; Tornillo, Texas, also received $120 million and we are bigger than both of them combined,” he said. “We are breaking records every year and we’re going to hit a point that we get a bottleneck that’s going to affect our (truck) crossing times, which are the fastest in the region at less than 30 minutes.”

According to the U.S. Burau of Transportation Statistics, 12,066 commercial trucks, most with cargo, used the Santa Teresa Port of Entry in January. The Ysleta facility in El Paso’s Lower Valley processed 56,108 trucks that month.

But with Ysleta being in a growing urban area, Santa Teresa has become the preferred crossing point for 160-foot-long wind blade turbines manufactured in Juarez, Mexico, and shipped to wind power farms in the Midwestern United States.

Pacheco said an expanded port would handily accommodate such oversized cargo as well as the increased truck traffic that’s making Santa Teresa one of New Mexico’s top economic development engines.